How Can Assessment Benefit Students?
The useful assessment provides “value for time spent” for students and instructors when it is used as a learning activity and evaluation. Using a blend of both formative and summative assessments throughout a course shapes meaningful learning experiences for students.
- Formative assessments:
- Pinpoint areas for improvement
- Identify course content that may need to be reviewed
- Guide ongoing learning activities
- Provide data on the progress students are making towards a larger course goal
- Summative assessments:
- Examine the acquisition of knowledge, skill achievement, and content mastery at a specific point of the course
- These are typically done as a midterm, final, or submission of a final project
- They can also be in the form of a programmatic assessment such as a licensing exam
Both types of assessments can be used for calculating grades and providing feedback and can be combined.
What is Useful Assessment?
Get the best value for the time spent by combining assessment with learning. These are opportunities to identify misconceptions, correct thinking, and reasoning, and think deeply about the course content. Useful assessment is time-efficient for students, not just busywork. Consider how assessment activities can be time-efficient for you as an instructor because it serves as a feedback opportunity. It is ideal to parallel the work practices in the discipline
- Mary Bart (Faculty Focus): Creating a Campus Culture that Values Assessment
- Maryellen Weimer (Faculty Focus): Is it Time to Rethink our Exams
- Susan Spangler (Faculty Focus): Flipping Assessment: Making Assessment a Learning Experience
- Center for Teaching (Vanderbilt University): Classroom Assessment Technique
View the Online Assessment workshop (1:07) recording to identify potential online formats as well as ideas for “authentic” assessment. Suggestions and tools to support academic integrity are discussed as well. The resources mentioned in this workshop are listed below.
- Group Grid Activity
- Dr. Tim Brophy – A Practical Guide to Assessment
- AAC&U – E-Portfolios: For Reflection, Learning, and Assessment
- Paloma Rodriguez – ePortfolio Workshop (visit the CTE Events and Workshops page for the next offering)
- UF Center for Teaching Excellence Resource Library – Student ePortfolios
- University of Waterloo – ePortfolios Explained: Theory and Practice
- Dr. Peter Doolittle – Active Learning, Proactive Teaching, Deep and Flexible Knowing (PPT Presentation)
- Dr. Maryellen Weimer (Faculty Focus) – Making Exams More about Learning
- Phil Nast (National Education Association): Authentic Assessment Toolbox
- Queen’s University – Examples of Innovative Assessments
- Dr. Rick Kates (UF) and colleagues (eLearn Magazine) – Enhancing and Impacting the Online Classroom Environment with Infographics
- Brittany Starkman (eCampus Ontario) – Producing Podcasts as an Alternative Method of Student Assessment
Assessment as a Learning Tool
2-Stage Collaborative Testing:
“In a two-stage exam, students complete and submit the exam individually in the first stage. Then in the second stage, they answer the exam questions again by working together in small groups. During the “group” stage, students receive immediate, targeted feedback on their solutions from their fellow students and see alternative approaches to the problems. This makes the exam itself a valuable learning experience while also sending a consistent message to the students as to the value of collaborative learning.” (Carl Wieman)
- Teaching Beyond the Podium Podcast (University of Florida): Two-Stage Collaborative Assessment (with pdf transcript)
- Carl Wieman: Two-Stage Exams (pdf)
- Carl Wieman: Turn an Exam into a Learning Experience with Two-Stage Exams
- Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning Through Research (Northeastern University): Two-Stage Exams
Paper and essay writing contribute to student learning in two primary ways: developing skills and cultivating learning styles. The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) considers writing papers a high-impact practice that helps keep students engaged and learning deeply while they achieve learning goals and meet learning challenges (Kuh, 2008).
Paper Writing Features:
- Flexible formats for writing
- Variety in length and purpose
- Formative or summative assessment
Paper Writing Challenges:
- Students often regurgitate information rather than analyze and respond
- Students often need significant guidance on writing expectations
Project-Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended length of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge (Buck Institute for Education).
Students work on a project for a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They have to demonstrate their knowledge and skill development by creating a product or presentation for a real audience. As a result, students develop deeper content understanding as well as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills.
Project Challenges and Solutions
Challenge: Some students may dominate their group
Solution: Suggest students assume project roles that resemble a real-world team
Challenge: Some students prefer not to participate
Solution 1: Projects require preparation
Solution 2: Enlist students in identifying scenarios
Challenge: Students want a rubric
Solutions: Have students assist in determining the criteria for success
Challenge: Takes significant class time
Solution 1: Use problems that provide the best “bang for the buck”
Solution 2: Scaffold with outside-of-class learning
Challenge: Requires patience
Solution 1: Refer to the big picture
Solution 2: Reflection to show how far students have come
Solution 3: Establish an environment of trust: “This goes both ways”
If there is specific information that students must be able to remember, such as medical students knowing the bones and muscles, then it will be important to provide practice recalling these facts throughout the semester. (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014)
- “Spaced Recall” activities involving the same information should be repeated throughout the semester
- Switching between concepts or “interleaving” requires students to work harder to access items stored in memory
- Both practices are needed for students to commit new learning to long-term memory
Interleaving generally causes students to make more mistakes initially leading to a sense of frustration and a feeling that they are not “learning.” It will be important to remind students that these learning practices support recall beyond the confines of the current semester. Students might also have to refer to earlier chapters of their textbook for support. I found that providing students with page numbers for the relevant information and warning them of the increased difficulty helped their progress.
Easy to use methods:
- First 5 minutes quizzes
- Comparing and learning models
- Revision lessons
Mastery quizzes encourage information retention and transfer. Student learning is further enhanced when learners are given multiple opportunities to recall new material. Create low-stakes online quizzes with multiple attempts (3 attempts will encourage learning rather than guessing) and answer-level feedback. These provide low-pressure recall practice without using up valuable class time. Meaningful feedback helps them focus on areas of improvement and provides specifics for correction (Gillard-Cook & West, 2006).
Mastery Quiz Benefits:
- Encourages mastery rather than grades
- Helps learners identify gaps and areas of improvement
- Are time-efficient for students and instructors
- Allows instructors to provide supporting resources
- Encourages learners to take charge of their learning
- Reduces test anxiety
- Provides low stakes opportunities to demonstrate learning
Collaborative Note Taking
Collaborative note-taking allows students to work together to create more thorough and accurate notes from lectures and readings. Students learn from each other, contribute from various perspectives, and correct each other’s misconceptions. Instructors can use the notes to check for understanding.
Tools: Google Suite, OneDrive, Perusall
For more information see the Cued and Collaborative Note Taking section of the instructor guide.
Assessment as Evaluation
Assessment is more successful when there is a clear and intentional plan in place. Without a specific strategy and intentional goal setting, assessments can suffer from unclear goals, vague expectations, minimal communications of criteria, and limited feedback. This can lead to invalid and potentially unreliable evaluations of student learning outcomes (Walvoord, 2010). Dr. Tim Brophy has developed the Practical Guide to Assessment a rich resource that guides all assessment-related topics.
Here is a quick summary of the steps in developing useful assessments.
Before the assessment:
- Define your student learning goals
- Select and define the assessment method
- Develop the assessment
- Check for alignment to other course elements
- Communicate with the students about the assessment
Once the assessment is complete:
- Analyze the results
- Provide feedback
- Reflect and make revisions to the assessment
Brown, Peter C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make It Stick: the science of successful learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap, Harvard.
Kemp, J., Mellor, A., Kotter, R., & Oosthoek, J. (2012). Student-Produced Podcasts as an Assessment Tool: An Example from Geomorphology. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 36, 117 – 130.
Kuh, G. (2008). High-Impact educational practices. Peer Review, 4, 30.
Gillard-Cook, T., West, B. (2006). Authentic learning: Rethinking quizzes and exams for greater impact. Retrieved from https://evolllution.com/opinions/authentic-learning-rethinking-quizzes-exams-greater-impact/
Walvoord, B. E. 2010. Assessment Clear and Simple: A Practical Guide for Institutions, Departments and General Education. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.